The accurate genetic classification of acute leukemia is of the utmost clinical importance for treatment stratification. In the present study, we report on a young girl with aggressive acute monoblastic leukemia (AML) (M5b) with skin, lymph node, and bone marrow involvement, in whom cytogenetic analysis revealed three clones with different secondary chromosomal changes. Two clones had the secondary +8 and del(9q) aberrations, with the der(11)t(1;11) in the second one; the third clone was apparently unrelated to the others, and had add(7)(p?21),-13,+22. Using the spectral karyotyping (SKY) technique, we found that all three clones originated from a common clone that harbored the hidden primary t(10;11)(p13;q23) or its derivatives, suggesting clonal evolution. The first clone had the balanced t(10;11), the second had its derivative, der(10)t(10;11), and the third had the other derivative, der(11)t(10;11). On fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), MLL gene splitting, with translocation of its centromeric portion to 10p, and deletion of its telomeric portion, was demonstrated. In conclusion, the detection of the very poor prognostic t(10;11) aberration in AML, was possible by complementing the traditional cytogenetic analysis with SKY and FISH. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc.